Mobile phones may be an all access pass to fun for most of us but for the physically or visually impaired it’s one more ‘no entry’ barrier. Vodafone Japan along with TU-KA Cellular in Tokyo, Kansai, and Tokai are making mobile services a little easier for people with disabilities through a new free directory service [.pdf]. Dubbed ‘Smile Call’ subscribers punch in 104 to connect to a directory service operator who can assist them in placing calls. Generally 104 calls through mobile lines are fee-based but this system developed with Japan Multimedia Services Corporation creates free access to registered users. After completing the registration process, subscribers punch in 104, identify themselves to the operator and once their name has been verified, proceed with questions and assistance.
Disabled users all over the world have had a difficult time finding handsets made for their specific needs. Sure there are some software programs linking PCs and cell phones designed for the handicapped but what about when users are out of the house?
In Korea, SK Telecom has introduced Helper Phone, a modified SCH-E580 handset. This cell phone provides one-button access to voice directed functions for incoming and outgoing call lists, text message list, voice messages, non-answered call list, date, time, alarm and battery life. SK Telecom worked with Samsung Electronics, the Korea Blind Union and Intro Mobile on these new functions.
Here in Japan Tu-Ka has had a hit with a simplified mobile handset, TUKA S manufactured by Kyocera. Though services are slashed to voice only, the oversized numbered keypad and easy operation make the unit perfect for elderly users and those for whom a regular handset is too complex or too small to manipulate.
Smile Call is a small step forward in synchronizing the needs of disabled individuals with the growth of mobile technologies.